Monday, March 26, 2007

Controversy With Drennan

Our title, of course, is a play on the name of sportscaster Bruce Drennan's former WKNR/850 morning show, "Mornings With Drennan". Feel free to sing it out loud in the style of, say, a show tune...

Ever since regional sports network SportsTime Ohio announced that Drennan would host a daily talk show on the channel ("All Bets Are Off"), the Northeast Ohio media world can't stop buzzing about the hiring of a man who so recently walked out of a federal penitentiary, he has to get a work release exemption to even be able to leave his home and do the show.

(For the three people who haven't already heard, Drennan recently completed a five-month sentence in a West Virginia federal penitentiary for not claiming tens of thousands of dollars in gambling income on his federal taxes, and is now serving another five months on house arrest.)

Another local TV sports host, Les Levine, weighed in last week on his Time Warner Cable show "More Sports and Les Levine". He basically interrupted an in-studio interview with former Cleveland Cavaliers coach Mike Fratello to comment on the hiring...with a statement we transcribe here:

I realize that what I'm about to say is going to be scoffed at by some people who will say that I have a case of "sour grapes" because I have a television show on a network - FSN Ohio - that competes with SportsTime Ohio.

I'm all for deserving people getting a second chance, and it would be nice if some TV or radio station would give Bruce Drennan that second chance.

But not one that is owned by the Cleveland Indians.

Somebody's gotta help me out here.

According to a published report in the Plain Dealer, Drennan bet between 14 and 37 thousand dollars - a day - on baseball for several years.

Now, the Indians have hired him to do a daily sports show called "All Bets Are Off", and will have segments on the show featuring the manager, Eric Wedge.

Gambling scares baseball more than steroids scares baseball. Now, if you want to believe I have an agenda here, you can be my guest, but I do have one question: What the heck are the Indians thinking?

Les has a good point.

In the Cleveland Plain Dealer article about the hiring ("TV station gambles on host" by writer Mark Gillispie), a Major League Baseball spokesman is quoted:

Major League spokesman Richard Levin said in a telephone interview Tuesday that he had not heard about Drennan’s hiring.

“This is new to us, so we’ll have to look into it,” Levin said. He declined to comment further.

But in the Associated Press story on the Drennan hiring, found here on the website of the Times-Reporter newspaper in Dover-New Philadelphia - don't reach for that copy/paste, T-R folks, you already printed it! - gives us the impression that STO and the Indians have already run this by MLB.

Long-time Indians PR guy Bob DiBiasio tells the AP that Drennan won't be allowed in the clubhouse, but will be allowed on the field at Jacobs Field and in the press box. And then, there's this:

“We informed major league baseball of the situation and told them of our plan,” DiBiasio said. “They felt what we were doing fell in line as appropriate action.”

Either way, Mr. Levine is correct in his above statement. Baseball is VERY antsy about gambling, and even if the Indians have run this by the folks at the MLB offices, they WILL be watching Drennan closely...and the Indians, as well.

The whole thing is made even more odd by the fact that the sport Drennan admittedly betted on, and in some quantity, is baseball itself. That's something even fellow gambling addict and former Cincinnati Reds great Pete Rose didn't even admit until fairly recently.

MLB probably doesn't have much say in Drennan sitting in a SportsTime Ohio studio, and pontificating about sports from afar - even if it's the Indians' owners who own the network. They didn't hire Drennan to manage the team, or to do anything but open his mouth on TV.

It's the contact directly with players, manager Eric Wedge and others, that they'll be concerned about.

How will it go? Well, as Drennan says, people either love him or hate him. And that'll probably rule the day.

And even the show tanks, or if for whatever reason, the powers in New York force them to pull Drennan out of Jacobs Field, STO has already gained thousands upon thousands of dollars of free publicity...

UPDATE 3/27/07 1:58 PM: As per our new policy, this item is now closed for comments.


74WIXYgrad said...

Hopefully the show will succeed or fail, based on Mr. Drennan's performance and STO will not to bend over backwards to prove one point or another. I doubt it though. Bruce has the big red "G" on his forehead.

Anonymous said...

And the rewarding of criminals continues.

Anonymous said...

How come Pete Rose cant get into the hall of fame but Bruce Drennan can get a job with baseball. Seems very odd to me and a double standard.

Anonymous said...

MLB didn't hire Drennan, a local cable network (STO) did. Big difference.

STO knew what they were getting with Bruce, and they knew the furor it would cause.

STO is going 24/7 beginning Sunday, and with the Indians season starting and with Drennan debuting, they wanted to make a big splash and you have to say mission accomplished there.

Anonymous said...

Les Levine should just shut his jealous yap. Comparing that habitual liar Rose to a radio/TV sports commentator is just idiocy. Bruce has done his time, learned a life lesson, and can once again be an interesting voice in local sports media. YOU'd want the same chance, buckos, so don't be so quick to throw stones.

Anonymous said...

Unless you know Bruce personally how can you possibly say the guy learned a life lesson? Its amazing how ignorant some people are...

Anonymous said...

Mr. Drennan's crime was not gambling. but failing to report and pay taxes on his winnings.
He is not a coach, manager, official or owner of any sports team. Any comparison between him and Mr. Rose is baseless.
American society and MLB are caught up in their own hypocritical views about gambling. Possible actions against the Indians by MLB is what Mr. Levine is warning about, and wisely so.
Having said that, sail on Bruce! Illegitimi non carborundum!

Anonymous said...

no...Drennan was CONVICTED of not paying taxers. His crimes were gambling and not paying his taxes.

Why is anyone surprised by this hire? Typical Indians move, getting someone cheap off the scrap heap.

Anonymous said...

Do any of you think Drennan is the only guy who uses the information he gathers at the highest level of the sport to his advantage as a sports bettor?


The only difference is, Drennan got caught...nothing more..

Most of the people who will watch him on STO will have long forgotten what it was he did..they only have an interest in whether or not his opinions are entertaining.

Anonymous said...

???? I guess people here don't understand what illegal gambling is? Bruce was illegally taking bets and skimming profits off of $30-50K A DAY. He sang like a jail bird in order to lesson his sentence. Do you remember a guy by the name of Al Capone... he too was in prison for "tax evasion." STO should be embarrassed if nothing else hiring someone like this RIGHT OUT OF JAIL!!! Heck he'll be working with probably a nice ankle bracelet on.

Anonymous said...

If only WTAM would only get rid of Kevin Keene.

Pho said...

Among the many, many, many problems with hiring a gambler with a felony record is this: can Brennan move the line? Can he by, say, hyping an injury to a key player change the point spread in upcoming games. I'm not sure that he can now, but if his show gets particularly popular he might be able to.

If he can, or even if he thinks he can, it raises serious questions about what might pass for journalistic integrity on his show.

Anonymous said...

Having worked with Bruce I can tell you he is one of the biggest egomaniacs out there. He has learned no lesson I can assure you. Bruce knows that people will keep hiring him in this town so he learned nothing from his mistake. How many times has WTAM brought him back ? At least 4.

Anonymous said...

I am well tired of being told that it's fine to commit criminal offenses simply because a lot of other people do it. NO it is NOT.

It's more than a matter of merely getting caught. He committed a serious offense, and there are still a few of us remaining who believe that ethics and morals are worthy and important.

And there are still those of us who consider a person's credibility to be important.

Also, there's more to consider here than Drennan's ability to "move the line". Does this give him access to information he can use to facilitate his gambling ways? If so, is it appropriate for the Indians to put him in that position by allowing him access to the manager, coaches, players, general manager, etc.

Mike Fratello told Les Levine that, when he was coaching, he had to instruct his secretary to be careful with her telephone responses, because people were calling the office hoping to glean some inside information.

Is it ok if Drennan is placed in position to obtain that kind of inside line?

I imagine that might be what the MLB spokesperson meant by, "we'll be watching the situation".

Anonymous said...

The real issue here is, can this show succeed? I dont think "sports talk radio" on television has ever worked and will never work. Face it, it's boring TV. Drennan won't make viewers watch. The chances of this show getting a 1 share of the audience are very slim.

Anonymous said...

He shouldn't be allowed anywhere near the Indians.

He shouldn't be allowed anywhere near a microphone. When did criminals become so trusted? He hasn;t earned his trust back. He hasn't eaned the right to broadcast.

When you ruin your integrity, it shouldn't be so easy to jump right back in like nothing ever happened.

Anonymous said...

It's funny how so many of you are just "so SURE" Bruce learned no lesson from serving 5-mos. in prison, having his entire reputation ruined, possibly having death threats on his life, etc. How moronic do you think he IS? Sure, he may be an egomaniac (show me someone in entertainment who ISN'T...have ya heard Triv, lately??), but he knows his stuff, has candid observations, and never forget--Bruce has made a LOT of friends in this town over a quarter-century. Why wouldn't someone give a friend a second chance? Geez, you're sure quick to attack; what if the situation were reversed? You'd want a hand getting back on your feet, wouldn't you?